Meat & Livestock News

EPA Proposes New Wastewater Standards for Meat and Poultry Plants

Environmental engineers work at wastewater treatment plants,Water supply engineering working at Water recycling plant for reuse

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put forward a proposal to update wastewater discharge regulations for meat and poultry processing facilities. Announced on December 15, this rule aims to implement stricter controls on pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, oil, grease, organic materials, salts, and ammonia in wastewater.

The EPA’s proposal, which targets approximately 850 out of 5,000 meat processing plants in the nation, introduces more stringent effluent limitations, particularly on nitrogen and phosphorus. This marks the first time phosphorus limitations have been proposed.

The rule also considers two additional options to extend effluent limitations to more direct and indirect dischargers, along with pretreatment standards for some facilities.

A notable aspect of the proposal is the consideration of segregating and managing high-salt waste streams produced by some plants and the regulation of E. coli bacteria for direct dischargers. The EPA estimates that the proposed rule could reduce wastewater pollutants by about 100 million pounds annually.

Public engagement is a key part of the process. An online-only hearing is scheduled for January 24, 2024, to gather testimony, with an option for participants to listen in.

This will be followed by an in-person hearing at the EPA headquarters on January 31, details of which will be announced later. The EPA will accept public comments for 60 days following the rule’s publication in the Federal Register.

The American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) has responded to the proposed rule. Chris Young, the executive director of AAMP, expressed relief that the EPA has considered the impact on small businesses, which form the majority of their membership. He acknowledged the EPA’s efforts in minimising the rule’s impact on small and very small processors.

However, Young also expressed concerns about the EPA’s methodology in formulating these regulations, suggesting that a broader data collection from more plants would have provided a clearer picture of the industry. He advocated for greater collaboration between the industry and the EPA to find economically sustainable treatment solutions that protect the environment without forcing businesses to close.

This proposal represents a significant step by the EPA in enhancing environmental protection standards in the meat and poultry processing industry, balancing ecological concerns with the operational realities of businesses.